The Harper Strategy Strikes Again


To which of the myriad Machiavellian Harper strategies do I refer?  It’s the one that says if you don’t like what a group is saying, muzzle them or shut them down.

The Hill Times today reports the following newly-appointed Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O’Toole has informed an advocacy group for wounded and psychologically injured veterans that it is no longer a stakeholder adviser to the Veterans Affairs department.

Mike Blais, who helped launch Canadian Veterans Advocacy in 2011 to advocate for veterans and serving Canadian Forces members who did combat tours in Afghanistan and their families, told The Hill Times that Mr. O’Toole (Durham, Ont.) gave the bad news to the group in a voicemail he left on Mr. Blais’ phone service Jan. 7.  Mr. Blais’ group, which had been part of a Veterans Affairs Canada Stakeholder Committee established in 2012, had been one of the most vocal critics of the department’s treatment of injured veterans and Canadian Forces members in the months leading up to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) decision to shuffle former Veterans Affairs minister Julian Fantino (Vaughan, Ont.) out of the post last week, following scathing criticism from Auditor General Michael Ferguson for delays in treatment for veterans.

What prompted the termination, which the ‘classy’ Mr. O’Toole left in a voicemail message to Mr. Blais?  Here is what the former said last June in the House: “As a veteran myself, I have been quite offended by some of the work that group does.  It is not sincere.  It is not based on sound policy.  I understand, at committee, that they have acknowledged that their funding has come from unions”.

Setting the record straight, Blais offered the following: The advocacy group lobbied against government budget plans in 2012 that would have resulted in job losses at Veterans Affairs Canada, he said, after which the union representing the employees provided Canadian Veterans Advocacy a donation of $2,000.

“Every department at that time took a 10-per-cent hit except Veterans Affairs Canada,” Mr. Blais said.

“We worked hard on that and the Union of Veterans Affairs Employees made a donation of $2,000, no strings attached, just a donation to the war chest.  There is not tit for tat, no, nothing, right.  As a consequence to that, even though it was three years ago and a meagre $2,000, they’ve been attempting to label us,” Mr. Blais said.

Julian Fantino may have been replaced as Veterans Affairs minister, but his malignant, vindictive spirit clearly lives on.


Follow Lorne Warwick on twitter: @lornepw


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